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Croatian culture ministry ‘appalled’ by Meštrović Chicago monument review

momument in chicago croatian ivan mestrovic

The Bowman and The Spearman. by Ivan Meštrović (Photo credit: TRUsmith / CC BY-SA 4.0)

Croatia’s Ministry of Culture and Media has said that it is appalled at the idea of the possible removal of a famous monument by Croatian sculptor Ivan Meštrović in Chicago. 

The Bowman and the Spearman, also known collectively as Equestrian Indians, or simply Indians, by Meštrović which stands in Chicago’s Grant Park is one of 41 monuments and memorials in the Chicago which have been singled out for promoting persons and events related to racism, slavery, genocide or the misrepresentation of American Indians. 

The sculptures were made by Meštrović in Zagreb and installed at the entrance of the parkway in 1928.

In response to recent protests and activism, the city created a committee to review the Chicago’s monuments and memorials and recommend solutions.

“While in Chicago in 1925 for an exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago, he (Meštrović) was commissioned by the B.F. Ferguson fund to create two monumental mounted American Indians at the Michigan Avenue entrance of Grant Park at what is now Ida B. Wells Drive. Impressive for their heroic scale and bristling energy, the sculptures have been criticized for their romanticized and reductive images of American Indians,” the Chicago Monuments Project said on its website. 

momument in chicago croatian ivan mestrovic

The Spearman by Ivan Meštrović (Photo credit: Ponor/Public Domain)

As reported by daily Jutarnji List on Friday, Croatia’s Ministry of Culture and Media said that the monument was in no way offensive. 

“We are familiar with the topic of the Chicago Monuments initiative, which examines the justification for the survival of some public sculptures and monuments in Chicago. We consider it completely inappropriate to read racist connotations for one of Meštrović’s best public sculptures as published on the Chicago Monuments website. On both a formal and a substantive level, Meštrović’s portrayal of Native American representatives is neither negative nor offensive, and cannot be attributed to negative interpretations, disparagement related to racism or slavery,” the Ministry of Culture and Media said. 

The Ministry of Culture and Media is in contact with the Ivan Meštrović Museums as well as with the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs regarding further actions. 

“In agreement with relevant and professional cultural institutions, a document will be compiled that will present information about the project and explain the context of the creation and importance of the sculpture. We are sure that our arguments addressed to relevant cultural institutions will contribute to a better understanding strongly marked both Croatian and the culture of the United States.

The Bowman (Photo credit: Ponor/Public Domain)

The Chicago Monuments Project is a platform set up, as it states, “to address the hard truths of Chicago’s racial history, confront the ways in which that history has and has not been memorialized, and develop a framework for marking public space that elevates new ways to memorialize Chicago’s history.”

The project has four main objectives, including cataloguing monuments and public art on City or Park District property, appointing an advisory committee to determine which pieces warrant attention or action, to make recommendations for new monuments or public art that could be commissioned and to create a platform for the public to engage in a civic dialogue about Chicago’s history. 

Curators are worried for the fate of the monument, because, plaster models according to which the monument was cast do not exist. There are studies and sketches and if the monument is destroyed, it would be irretrievably lost.

momument in chicago croatian ivan mestrovic

Ivan Meštrović (Photo: George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress)/Public Domain)

Born in Croatia in 1883, Meštrović trained in Split, Vienna and Paris, Ivan Meštrovic’s sculptural style was a hybrid of conservative and modern tendencies, reflecting early twentieth-century movements of art nouveau, expressionism and art deco. He died in 1962 in Indiana. USA. 

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